One memorable Easter I heard myself crying passionately, and, I feared, blasphemously, "I didn't ask him to die for me." Fortunately no one heard my outburst. I was crawling my way back into religious observance because I found my life empty without it.
But the old feelings of guilt, unprovoked by any actual or specific infraction, came back as the Easter season approached. All that I could hear was that Jesus had died for our sins.
Earlier a friend had encouraged me to buy a book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, which, she said, would help explain the life of Jesus to me. I wasn't able to make myself go to a church service that Easter morning, but as I read this book, that awful sense of guilt was assuaged.
I could see that I had not understood what the Bible was saying, and this book gave a spiritual, and what the author called scientific, explanation of the great biblical truths. It states, "The Sermon on the Mount is the essence of this Science, and the eternal life, not the death of Jesus, is its outcome" (page 271).
A study of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5-7) and the many accounts of the Master's healing works do indeed speak of life and not of death. Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
What then of Jesus' crucifixion and burial, and his rising from the grave? Isn't this what Easter commemorates? Yes, and it doesn't lessen the value of his great sacrifice in overcoming death to celebrate his and our eternal life. It was his contemporaries' refusal to accept his mission and his teaching that caused his crucifixion. But his willingness to prove that God is Life itself is a noble self-sacrifice that Easter observances reverently acknowledge.
Jesus had been proving that God is the very source of life, and that the source of life cannot cause its opposite, death. Not only did he heal sickness that might have led to death, but also there are three recorded instances in the Bible of his restoring to life those who were dead. Of special significance is his restoring the life of Lazarus.
He had been told that his friend Lazarus was fatally ill. He did not arrive until Lazarus had been dead for four days and was buried. Jesus called Lazarus to come forth from the grave, and then presented his friend alive to his grieving sisters and to the many who had come to mourn with them (see John, chapter 11).
One cannot help wishing that this marvelous healing had been enough to prove that life is deathless and Jesus would not have had to go through the torment of crucifixion. But Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice of allowing men to attempt to destroy his life in the way a common criminal was killed. He was taken down from the cross and buried. Then, after spending three days in his grave, he emerged from the tomb and showed himself to his friends and followers.
Jesus' understanding that Life is God, omnipotent and eternal, enabled him to triumph over death and set such a wonderful example for his followers of all time. Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "Not death, but the understanding of Life, makes man immortal" (Science and Health, page 485).
This is the Easter that is celebrated, the annual reminder that Life is God and is altogether good. A renewal to live more abundantly a life that is spiritually inspired and to help others live abundantly is how I've come to respond to the spiritual demands of Easter.
The whole Lenten season can be viewed as a time of mental housecleaning, preparing thought to better entertain the facts of eternal Life. A lingering, undefined guilt is not a helpful nor healthy state, but rejoicing in the triumph of the good that Easter represents is.
That holy day is indeed a celebration of the life that flows from God, the life that is good.
He delivered me,
because he delighted in me.